Sleep is important for your physical and mental health. Your lifestyle, sleep schedule and habits at bedtime can help to make a huge difference to the quality of your sleep.  The following tips may help you enhance your sleep so you can be productive, mentally sharper and have more energy.

General Sleep Tips

Your Personal Sleep Habits

  • Try to establish a regular sleep routine and regular sleep-awake schedule. Try and get into a routine of going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time even on weekends.
  • Limit your time spent in bed, you should only spend 8.5 hours at one time in your bed.
  • Try to avoid naps in the evening as this may affect your night time sleep.
  • Ensure you get enough time in bright light and daylight early on in the day, as light suppresses your sleep hormone melatonin which will tell your body to be awake.
  • Eat well during the day, especially important is good healthy breakfast.
  • Exercise regularly in the morning or afternoon but never at night.
  • Waking up during the night is normal.  If you can’t get back to sleep then get out of bed, lying there worrying or frustrated will not help get you back to sleep.  Go to another room, read a relaxing book for a few minutes, have a bath, eat a light snack, foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as cereal with milk, peanut butter on toast, or turkey and crackers, may help you to sleep. Have a small drink of warm milk. Don’t do anything that stimulates your body and mind like watch tv, office work, heavy housework, etc.
  • Talk to your doctor if you develop medical problems and/or insomnia persists.

Your Sleep Environment

  • Only use your bed for sleeping and sex.  Avoid using electronic devices when in bed, ie television, computers, phones, ipad.
  • Keep bedroom lights low, change your bulbs to a lower wattage so the bedroom is not bright.
  • Keep your bedroom dark by using blackout curtains or blinds.
  • Turn any bright clocks away from your view so that you are not able to look at it and worry about your sleep time.
  • If you live where there is lots of noise a white noise machine or app can help to drown out this noise.  Use a good pair of earplugs.
  • Keep your bedroom a cooler level (19-20º) as a cool temperature can help you go to sleep.
  • Ensure you have comfortable bedclothes, a duvet that is too hot or too cold will only keep you awake.   Use a good quality bed and mattress.
  • If your partner snores, move to another room.  They should also talk to their doctor about their snoring as it could be an indicator of a sleep disorder like sleep apnea.

Getting Ready for Bed

  • Have a bath two hours before bed using relaxing bath products.
  • Create a bedtime sleep routine. Try and wind down an hour before bedtime.  If you have a lot of things to do the following day write them down before you get into bed so you can stop worrying about them.
  • Try a light snack before bed. Foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as cereal with milk, peanut butter on toast, or turkey and crackers, may help you to sleep
  • Avoid any caffeine drinks like coffee, tea, cocoa, green tea, fizzy drinks like coke, have your last stimulant drink 4-6 hours before bed. Cigarettes should also be avoided. Alcohol should also be avoided as it prevents proper deep sleep which is vital for health.
  • Try to keep a gap of three hours between your last drink and sleep.
  • Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime. Avoid Tyramine containing foods in the evening.
  • You can use sleep aids like white noise, relaxing sounds, etc.  There are plenty of apps available for smartphones or ipads to help you relax and sleep.
  • Try relaxation exercises, again there are some great apps available for smartphones or ipads for this purpose.

Sleep Tips When Pregnant

Sleep advice from the American National Sleep Foundation:

  • In the third trimester , sleep on your left side to allow for the best blood flow to the fetus and to your uterus and kidneys. Avoid lying flat on your back for a long period of time.
  • Drink lots of fluids during the day, but cut down before bedtime.
  • To prevent heartburn, do not eat large amounts of spicy, acidic (such as tomato products), or fried foods. If heartburn is a problem, sleep with your head elevated on pillows.
  • Exercise regularly to help you stay healthy, improve your circulation, and reduce leg cramps.
  • Try frequent bland snacks (like crackers) throughout the day. This helps avoid nausea by keeping your stomach full.
  • Special “pregnancy” pillows and mattresses may help you sleep better. Or use regular pillows to support your body.
  • Napping may help. The NSF poll found that 51% of pregnant or recently pregnant women reported at least one weekday nap; 60% reported at least one weekend nap.
  • Learn to relax with relaxation and breathing techniques, which can also help when the contractions begin. A warm bath or shower before bed can be helpful.
  • Talk to your doctor if you develop medical problems and/or insomnia persists.

More information on Pregnancy and Sleep

Sleep Tips for New Mums

  • Sleep while you can so sleep when baby sleeps. Put your head down when your baby goes down. You might actually get a full cycle of sleep a couple of times a day.  A full sleep cycle lasts 90 minutes so if you are sleep deprived this is how long you will need to nap for.
  • Put your phone on silent and put a do not disturb note on your front door, it is important for you and your baby that you are both getting the sleep you both need.  Send a text to your partner or family member that you are going for a nap so that they don’t worry as well.
  • If dad is not working then rotate the nights sleeping plan by day on day off type if you can.  Alternating who does the feeding throughout the night will just leave both of you very tired.
  • If dad is working and if you are breastfeeding then pump the last pre midnight feed and go to bed after the previous feed so dad can give it to baby before he goes asleep and you can get a few hours sleep before you get up for the other feeds.
  • When caring for a newborn you need all the support you can get, ask your partner, friends or family to help out with household chores and food so that you can have more time to sleep and not be worrying about what to cook for dinner or doing the hoovering.  For the first few weeks discourage visitors unless they are coming to give you a hand or are coming for an hour at your requested time.  Leave a do not disturb note on the door and switch off the doorbell if you can.
  • Leave baby’s moses basket or crib beside your bed so that you are not up and down and walking down the corridor to babies room if you are very tired. Plug in a night light so that you can see what you are doing without both of you having the glare of a full light, you should avoid however walking around in the dark for health and safety reasons.  Your body will be in it’s hormone induced hypervigilant state so try using gentle white noise machines or apps as this can help stop you waking at every noise baby makes when they are asleep but will still allow you to wake you up if baby cries or fusses.  If you can avoid holding babies hands or having them fall asleep on or beside you as they go asleep if you are going to be moving them when asleep to their own crib, baby will get used to this and you are training them that this is going to be their sleep habit going forward unless it is a habit you want to have.
  • Remember you and baby are the most important people at this time, all other commitments need to wait.
  • Talk to your doctor if you develop medical problems and/or insomnia persists.

Read more information on sleep:

Which sleep position is healthiest?

Sleep Relaxation Exercises

How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?

What Happens When You Sleep?

Let Sleep Work for You

Food and Sleep

Depression and Sleep

Depressed Moms’ Behavior May Play Role in Infants’ Sleep Problems

Sleep, Infants and Parents

Helping the New Baby Sleep Like a Baby

Read more on looking after your Mental Health & Emotional Wellbeing.